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Thursday , April 25 2019

Tottenham slip-up at Liverpool – Arsenal turn tables on Watford, keep pressure on Leicester

Watford’s Austrian defender Sebastian Prodl (left), vies with Arsenal’s French defender Laurent Koscielny during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Watford at the Emirates Stadium in London on April 2. (AFP)
Watford’s Austrian defender Sebastian Prodl (left), vies with Arsenal’s French defender Laurent Koscielny during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Watford at the Emirates Stadium in London on April 2. (AFP)

LIVERPOOL, April 2, (AFP): Harry Kane’s 22nd goal of the Premier League season rescued a point for title-chasing Tottenham Hotspur in a 1-1 draw away to Liverpool on Saturday. But the result left shock leaders Leicester City four points clear at the top — and the Foxes will stretch their advantage to seven points if they win at home to Southampton on Sunday.

England striker Kane scored with a superb 62nd minute effort, taking a cross from the quick-footed Christian Eriksen, before turning to beat marker Dejan Lovren and send an unstoppable shot into the corner of the goal. Kane’s goal cancelled out an earlier effort from Liverpool’s Brazilian international Philippe Coutinho who struck in the 51st minute of an open contest.

Coutinho started, and emphatically finished, the move, executing a one-two with Daniel Sturridge before beating the diving Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris with a magnificently-judged right-foot shot from just inside the penalty area. An absorbing and entertaining game saw both teams play with attacking intent and energy from the outset.

As early as the ninth minute, a super cross-field pass from Danny Rose picked out fellow full-back Kyle Walker and, after a helping touch from Son Heung-Min, Eriksen’s well-struck shot was kept out impressively by Simon Mignolet. Not for the first time on the day, there was a swift response at the other end as Adam Lallana dispossessed Mousa Dembele, James Milner saw a shot blocked by Kevin Wimmer and Coutinho’s follow-up shot was kept out by the diving Lloris.

Mignolet’s suspect kicking has caused Liverpool supporters more than occasional anxiety this season and, in the 19th minute, he and Lovren dithered in dealing with a loose ball on the edge of the area and Kane charged down the goalkeeper’s clearance, with the Belgian watching in relief as the ball flew harmlessly behind.

Moments later, Lloris showed his worth at the other end, diving sharply to deal with an interception from team mate Son that looked like flying into his own goal. Then, as Liverpool pressed, Coutinho robbed Eriksen and advanced only to dive under a challenge from Toby Alderweireld, receiving the game’s first caution in the process.

The uncertainty that has been evident in Liverpool’s defending at times this season again came to the fore as Mamadou Sakho failed to head clear, allowing Kane to run at Lovren and send a low shot flying just wide of the left-hand post. But, whatever their shortcomings at the back, Liverpool still impressed in attack, even if the quality of their finishing left a lot to be desired.

After Spurs survived a penalty appeal, when Walker tangled with James Milner in the area, Sturridge was clean through on goal but denied by the legs of Lloris.

Coutinho found Lallana who showed great skill and footwork in the area to make room and force another save from the impressive Spurs keeper and the France captain somehow kept out a mis-hit close-range Lallana volley.

After the second half opened with Liverpool taking the lead, Sturridge might have increased the advantage with an off-balance header that flew just over, while Son arrived on the end of a Dembele cross to send an acrobatic volley soaring above the crossbar.

Mignolet then saved Eriksen’s low, crisp shot, as Spurs sought the winner, while Coutinho again threatened with a drilled cross-shot that flew along an unguarded goal-line.

Coutinho, yet again, was just off target with a shot after decent approach play by Divock Orgi and, as Spurs pushed and pushed, a 22-yard Eriksen free-kick sailed narrowly wide.

It was a miss that summed up an afternoon of so near yet so far for Tottenham at Anfield.

Arsenal 4, Watford 0

In London, Arsenal kept their slender Premier League title hopes alive with a 4-0 victory over Watford at the Emirates Stadium that exacted some revenge for their FA Cup defeat by Quique Sanchez Flores’s side last month.

Alexis Sanchez’s fourth-minute goal set the tone for a one-sided win that was completed by Alex Iwobi’s 38th-minute effort, Hector Bellerin’s strike early in the second half and Theo Walcott’s last minute tap-in.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had insisted before this game his side, currently in third place, could yet win the title if they won their remaining eight games.

And this victory moved them to within eight points of leaders Leicester City, 24 hours before Claudio Ranieri’s side face Southampton.

Veteran French boss Wenger had admonished Mesut Ozil earlier this week after the Germany international claimed Arsenal had “screwed up” their title challenge.

Having been clear favourites at the turn of the year, it was hard to disagree with Gunners playmaker Ozil’s contention but Wenger insisted this was no time for any of his players to allow their belief to weaken.

He knew better than anyone though that the only way to strengthen the view that Arsenal might yet challenge for the championship would be to build on their impressive victory at Everton last time out.

That win, coming in the wake of the Champions League exit at Barcelona and the FA Cup defeat by Watford, prompted as much frustration.

Nevertheless, the victory appeared to have lifted the squad and having named an unchanged line-up, Wenger saw his side make the ideal start against Watford.

With Sanchez starting on the right, Arsenal immediately threatened to open up the visitors with the Chile international delivering a teasing cross that would have presented Danny Welbeck with a routine chance to open the scoring but for a late intervention by Craig Cathcart.

Watford’s reprieve was brief, however. Moments later Iwobi picked out Sanchez and the winger rose above left-back Nathan Ake to head goalwards, finishing at the second attempt after Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes blocked the initial effort.

Watford looked like a team with little to play for and who had one eye on the upcoming FA Cup semi-final with Crystal Palace.

Having proved formidable opponents in last month’s cup tie at the Emirates, the Hornets were unable to halt the Gunners’ relentless attacking moves that should have seen Arsenal out of sight by half time.

Iwobi drew a fine save from Gomes with a curling shot moments before Welbeck’s effort was deflected wide after the striker was teed up by Ozil.

Arsenal’s second goal finally came in the 38th minute with Sanchez this time playing the role of provider, pulling a low cross back towards the penalty spot where Iwobi connected with a first time effort that beat Gomes.

Flores had seen enough and withdrew the ineffective Etienne Capoue after just 41 minutes, sending the midfielder straight down the tunnel and back to the dressing room.

The Watford manager made a further change half-time, replacing Odion Ighalo with Ikechi Anya.

Flores’s switches had little effect and three minutes after the restart Arsenal scored their third goal.

Sanchez was again involved, exchanging passes with Bellerin before delivering a cross that was cleared by Allan Nyom. The ball fell to Bellerin whose left-foot shot deflected off Sebastian Prodl past Gomes.

The game was effectively over and Arsenal understandably eased up, allowing Watford to fashion their first meaningful effort on target when Prodl’s header was cleared off the line by Nacho Monreal.

But Arsenal remained in control and rounded things off when Walcott turned home Joel Campbell’s cross.

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